Why Do Dogs Lick You?

If you own a dog, few things make you feel more loved than when your dog greets you with a lick or “kiss” to the face. While not everyone likes when dogs lick them, nearly everyone assumes that it’s a sign of love and affection. I hate to burst your bubble, but a dog’s licks aren’t always a sign of loving affection or that they missed you.  

From the time that they’re puppies, dogs learn how to lick and use their tongues for various reasons. Dogs have an incredible sense of taste and smell, and their tongue plays a vital role. While their happy licks to the face may indeed be a sign of affection, it could also be for a variety of different reasons. If you’re wondering why your dog licks you, whether or not it’s a problem, and what you can do to stop it, you’ve come to the right place.

  1. Why do Dogs Lick People? 
  2. Why do Dogs Lick Your Hands and Feet? 
  3. Why do Dogs Lick Your Face? 
  4. Is Too Much Licking a Problem? 
  5. What Can I Do About My Dog’s Licking? 

Why do Dogs Lick You-1


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Why do Dogs Lick People? 

Although most people assume that their dog is licking them because they miss you and are happy to see you, this isn’t always the case. Here are some of the main reasons that dogs have for licking people. 


In many cases, your dog is indeed licking you because they love you and want to show their affection to you. Dogs are fiercely loyal, loving, and caring animals, and they often love their masters as much as we love them. They also pick up on social cues, which means that when you kiss them or a member of your household to show affection, your dog will notice and act in kind. 


Another common reason your dog licks you is that you taste good. Don’t worry. Your dog hasn’t suddenly turned into a man eater. They simply like the taste of that leftover chili or sloppy joe that you spilled on yourself. Few things will incite a dog to lick you more than if you have food on your hands, clothing, or face. 

Why do Dogs Lick Your Face?-1

Seeking Attention 

Licking you doesn’t usually start as a way for a dog to get your attention, but it can quickly turn into one. If your dog notices that you laugh or giggle anytime they lick you, they’ll pick up on the fact that it’s a way for you to notice them. As a result, they may start licking you anytime they get bored or want you to play with them. Licking of this sort can quickly turn from a cute hello to an obnoxious habit that will drive you crazy. 


Licking can also be a dog's way of communicating with you. When they’re puppies, baby dogs get licked by their mother to clean and stimulate them and get them to poop and pee. Dogs in the wild, such as wolves and coyotes, also use licking to communicate. Wild puppies lick older pack members as a sign of submissiveness or to get them to throw up their food so that the puppies can partake. 

While your dog is merely a distant relative of wolves and coyotes, they still have that same instinct inside of them. Therefore, rather than licking you as a sign of affection, your dog might be showing you respect, or they’re trying to get you to throw up some food you just ate! 


Finally, dogs lick themselves, people, and random objects because they’re curious and want to learn more about the thing they’re licking. 

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Why do Dogs Lick Your Hands and Feet? 

If your dog tends to focus their licking on your hands and feet, it’s likely because they like how something tastes. Your hands touch dozens of things throughout the day, including foods, drinks, and other animals. Additionally, while you probably don’t like the smell of your feet, it’s like candy to your dog. Your feet are full of endocrine glands that generate a lot of salty sweat and are very inviting to your furry companion. 

Why do Dogs Lick Your Face? 

While dogs will lick any part of your body that smells or tastes good, they like to focus their attention on your face. Because of this focus on the face, many people mistake licking for kisses and signs of affection. However, the more likely reason is that your face gets exposed to more things in nature than any other part of your body. 

Anything that you eat or drink touches your mouth, and no matter how clean you try to be, your dog can always smell it. It’s also likely that your hands touch your face throughout the day, which means that any scents on your hands are now on your face. You might not notice any difference, but your dog will. 

What Can I Do About My Dog’s Licking?-1

Is Too Much Licking a Problem? 

Contrary to what people may try to tell you, a dog's licks are perfectly harmless. You’re not going to catch some disease or infection when your dog licks you, and many pet owners welcome a lick or two. Having said that, however, a dog's mouth is full of bacteria that could irritate or infect an open wound if they happen to lick one on you. Additionally, licking can turn into a nasty habit, especially when your dog tries to lick other people who don’t appreciate it the way you do. 

What Can I Do About My Dog’s Licking? 

If you’re tired of your dog licking you or your guests incessantly and want to stop it, there are a few things you can do. The first thing to try is to ignore your dog when they try to lick you. Don’t laugh and give them the reaction that they’re craving. Another option is to pull away whatever body part they’re trying to lick, tell them NO, and move away from them. 

You should also remember to give your dog a treat as soon as they stop licking. The carrot will usually work better than the stick when it comes to training bad habits out of your dog, and it’s a lot more fun. However, if you’re at your wit’s end and nothing you do seems to help, you can always opt to take your dog to a professional trainer, and they will take care of the problem for you. 

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